83. Red Poppies

I always have loved vistas of wildflowers, and the red poppies seen in so many French paintings always seem wonderful to me.  Red like that is hard to find (I think) in the natural world.  Painting it is even harder.  I ended up using mostly Cadmium Red Orange.

This is another direct watercolor from this morning, but because of the multiple layers of washes, I had to let it dry in between.  I went about getting ready for work between layers.  At first, I just did a sky and put in colors of grasses and poppies – but they all bled together, so the second attempt – the one above – is the final version.  If you look at the pictures below – click on them to see them in sequence – you can see what I did.  I scanned each wash layer before doing the next.

82. Buildings from Somewhere

Another focus on direct watercolor – no lines, no pencil.  Here, my main focus was to draw straight lines with a brush, as well as consider how not to get everything bleeding into each section.  I tried to do one area at a time – say, one building part – and then move on to one adjacent to it, working carefully to make each area separate but connected.  Sounds like a lot of hooey when I read it, but that’s best description I can give right now!  I’m running late to work.

77. Cell Phone Reflections

Direct watercolor, paint what’s in front of me, no lines.  Those were my morning thoughts.  What is always in front of me in the morning is my messy desk, full of different debris, depending on the day and whether or not I’ve done any tidying.  As I pondered, oh so profoundly, I looked at the cell phone on my desk and really liked the reflections from my monitors . . . and here is today’s subject.

I worked to think more consciously and conscientiously about what I was doing.  First, the outline of the phone, on my rather ochre-colored desk, then the darks of the phone itself, followed by reflections and shadows.  I tried to be selective of where to touch different colors for bleeds.  Finally, I went back in and did some shadows and contrasts to make a bit stronger image.  In between, I worked carefully to avoid blooms and hard edges from backwash.

76. Coffee Cup

Instead of just sketching in the morning, like a flower or something, I thought about just painting things.  The most prominent and important thing on my desk at 6 a.m. is my coffee cup!  This is one of my favorites, too, even though it is quite chipped and so on.  I’ll keep it until it dies.  Now it is immortalized in a “direct watercolor” – no lines – and in a rather disproportionate manner, but here you go.

75. Redbud in the Morning, and I’ve Been Thinking

Today, Marc Taro Homes announced a 30-day direct painting challenge, and started a Facebook group dedicated to it.  I’ve also been reviewing the work of an artist I admire, and who paints everything, from weird objects to seascapes to people.  It made me think about watercolor painting in general.  It becomes something of a sacred cow – so sacred you never experience it!  So, just do it and do it and do it.  Morning sketches are helpful, and so will the days of direct painting.

Outside my studio window is a small redbud tree.  The leaves are heart-shaped and vary in color from pale green-yellow to a rusty red, depending on the way the light hits.  This is my homage to starting direct watercoloring.  I didn’t catch the transparency of the leaves this morning, but I did paint.  Maybe I will paint it again tomorrow morning.

55. Castle, No Lines

Besides doing the orchid yesterday, I sat down and did what is being called”direct watercolor.”  As in sumi-e, the artist thinks about things before committing brush to paper.  No lines.  No value studies.  Look, see, think, paint.  It is a bit of a challenge and rather daunting, but I think this is such an enlightening way to learn the art of brushwork, value, contrast, and so on.  I did some glazes here and there, to create contrast as well as to carry various colors throughout the painting.  I also worked with vignetting, considering the shapes of the four corners of the vignette as well.

46. Christmas Cactus

I got a new watercolor sketchbook the other day, a Pentalic spiral bound with 140# paper.  I took it out to the patio and painted one of my Christmas cacti to see how the paint and paper responded.  It’s pretty nice paper, and it was pleasant to sit outdoors for a bit before the rains hit tonight.  This is also a study in direct watercolor – brush, paint, paper, without lines.

Direct Watercolor

The other day, I came into possession of a copy of Marc Taro Holmes’ newest book, Direct Watercolor.  In spirit, I am much of the same philosophy – little prep, direct painting, thinking ahead, seizing the moment, using colors directly, relying on imagination and happenstance and experience to create a painting.  All this requires is just doing it!  The “doing it” is the training – you do it, you think, you do again.  Like anything, practicing it enhances your skills and brings the mind-muscle memory together in ways that, if you were to consciously thing about, you could never achieve.

Marc mentioned some things I found particularly useful.  One is to create a silhouette of what you are working on – create the outer edges and then move inward.  Decide if edges are going to meet so that colors can bleed into one another.  Keep your edges dry if you don’t want things to bleed from one thing into another.  Let the painting dry, but don’t go over it extensively.  Other points he made is to work light to dark, large to small, but if you are working on something, do it directly – don’t dance all over the paper.

The silhouette appealed to me immensely, as well as the brushwork.  Here are some examples of brushwork and silhouette working together.  Once the edges of whatever I was painting were done, I then came in with varied colors to shade or define.  The colors really please me in many of these little sketches – the blending, the bleeding, the hard edge against the paper’s white.

Flowers make sense for the silhouette and then move in to blend colors.  Above, wet-on-dry.  Also, working directly while everything is still wet – as in the tulip on the far right.

Below, some examples of trees to create the illusion of a building (left) and another silhouette then molded to create a shape with shadow (top right).  Marc also mentions brushwork to show direction – and the importance to suggest.  The grassy strokes on the top left.  Finally, a bigger silhouette – here, Morro Rock –  created and worked on first (bottom right) before moving into other areas, specifically the dunes and plants in the foreground.

Quick sketches with valuable lessons.  While Marc’s book is not a “how to” book, it is a valuable resource for specific techniques.  The fact he is such a talented painter makes it look easy, but the truth is, he went from precise lines, to lines and colors, to direct watercolor with a great deal of effort and an entire change of mindset.